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A bill introduced Friday in the state House of Representatives would create a twice-a-year state lottery that could have cash payouts of about $2 million.
House Speaker Pete Kott, an Eagle River Republican who introduced the bill through the Economic Development, International Trade and Tourism Committee, said he hopes the lottery will help ease the state's fiscal woes.
Kott said lottery tickets would be sold to tourists in the summer as well.
About 1.2 million tourists visited Alaska last summer, the same number as the summer before, according to a survey from the Alaska Travel Industry Association. About 720,000 were cruise ship passengers.
"The market has grown to a large degree, and I believe that if we can market (lottery tickets) to the tourists, which have also grown over the last six years ... that we can generate some income that will be used to close the fiscal gap," Kott said.
Kott said the lottery would have two drawings a year with winnings of about $2 million for each drawing. The state would receive the same amount for each $2 million payout, Kott said.
The bill establishes a lottery commission to be operated by five-member committee appointed by the governor.
The Department of Revenue is determining what it would cost to run a statewide lottery, according to Deputy Commissioner Larry Persily. He said the department is analyzing lottery systems in South Dakota and Montana to help develop a lottery system in Alaska.
Kott said if the Department of Revenue determines the lottery is not financially feasible, Alaska could look to working with states that participate in multi-state lotteries.
"That's fairly easy to do, it's not that complex of an issue. It's being done in lots of other states, and the distance between us and Washington or us and California is not an issue at all," Kott said.
Money generated through the sale of lottery tickets would go to the state general fund, which is used to pay for government services. Kott noted that strong intent language could be added in the bill to persuade future Legislatures to use the funds each year for a specified purpose.
The state constitution prevents the Legislature from dedicating money to any particular area of the state budget without a constitutional amendment.
The proposal, House Bill 240, gets its first hearing in the Economic Development, International Trade and Tourism Committee at 5 p.m. today.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.